A good oatmeal bread is one of my favorite bakery items. When living in San Francisco, I would make my way to the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market most Saturday mornings. One of the things I would pick up is a loaf of oatmeal bread from Marla Bakery. I started baking my own oatmeal breads after moving to Southern California a few years back and I thought I’d share my favorite today. It’s a hearty, oat-flecked loaf with a buttermilk base studded generously with melty cubes of cheddar cheese and punctuated with thin slices of jalapeño pepper. Where the cheese touches the pan it turns to golden-crispy perfection. There’s an argument to be made that a thick slab of this bread makes the best toast in the world.
Let’s talk through the ingredients in this oatmeal bread.
- Old-fashioned Oats: Skip the instant oats, you want a more substantial flake here.
- Active Dry Yeast: I use this type of yeast for my non-sourdough bread recipes because, quite honestly, it’s the easiest yeast to find in most stores here in California.
- Buttermilk: Mentioned down below, buttermilk is my go-to liquid for this bread if I have it on hand. I love the flavor of buttermilk. That said, milk and water work wonderfully as well, just use whatever you’ve got. One thing to note, if you heat buttermilk too aggressively, or too hot, it might break and curdle. It’s not the end of the world, and you can simply proceed with the recipe once you’ve cooled to the desired temperature, but if you heat gently, this can be avoided.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Your olive oil doesn’t have to be special, it should just be good tasting. Whatever you use for sautéing. That said, for fun you might experiment with using a lemon olive oil, or basil or herbed oil for an alternative flavor profile and added dimension.
- Honey: This oatmeal bread uses a kiss of sweetness to round out the cheesy spiciness of the cheddar and pepper. My main advice here is that a good tasting runny honey is easiest to work with.
- Unbleached All-purpose Flour: You have a ratio of one cup of oats to 3 cups of flour here. The amount of oats really delivers a wonderful element of whole-grain heartiness and flavor. I’d recommend giving the recipe a go as written. At that point, if you want to add some whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour you absolutely should! I recommend swapping in 1/2 cup or 1 cup to start, make note of how you think it turns out, and adapt your next loaf from there.
- Jalapeño peppers: I like to actually taste the peppers here and find that using two chunky mediums is just about perfect. You can tweak to your comfort level of course. Go ahead and leave the seeds and veins in the peppers.
How to Make Oatmeal Bread
Proof the yeast. This is to be sure your yeast is working. If it isn’t your bread isn’t going to rise. If you have end up with an inactive packet of yeast, no big deal, simply start the proofing process over.
Make your bread dough. This is the step where you combine your proofed yeast liquid with the remaining ingredients. I use one large mixing bowl from the start of the bread making process to the finish. One thing to keep in mind, this dough it is a little tricky to read because of all the chunks. Keep kneading until the space between cheese cubes is smooth-ish and elastic. Also, pro-tip – you can simply wipe your mixing bowl out in between steps and use it for the initial rise as well.
Let the bread dough rise. This is the initial rise and the key here is making sure your bread is cozy. If my oven has been on, I place the bowl on top of it. Or find a sunny spot. My dad has a proofing oven, and that is a dream. You can approximate one by heating your oven on low for a few minutes, turning it off, and then placing your dough in there to rise.
Shaping the loaf and the second rise. My main advice here is to continue to be nice to your bread dough. Gently handle. Gently press to deflate along the surface of the dough. Gently shape the dough, no ripping or pulling. Keep in mind you don’t want it pancake flat before shaping. I do a bit of a burrito roll to shape this dough – roll along the length tucking in the ends a bit. Place into the pan seam-side down.
Top with oats and bake. I like to top my breads with a little bit of whatever is inside (when appropriate). In this case the cheese cubes melt and ooze, crisp and color. They break through the surface on the top of the loaf, so I don’t feel compelled to add more. Green streaks of jalapeño are also visible, so we’re all good on that front. To add oats on top, brush the top of your oatmeal bread with a bit of well-beaten egg white, and then generously sprinkle with rolled oats before placing in the oven to bake.
How to Store
Oatmeal bread isn’t going to keep as long as, say, sourdough, but this cheddar version keeps nicely for 4-5 days. If you bake a version without the cheese it tends to get a bit dry after day 2. Toasting remedies this and extends the load another day or so beyond.
To Store: Once your oatmeal bread has cooled completely, store it in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. The cheddar jalapeño oatmeal bread stays incredibly moist, the less decadent versions a bit less so.
Oatmeal Bread Variations
- Whole Grain Oatmeal Bread: Boost the percentage of whole grain flour. This is already a relatively hearty bread because of the amount of oats in the dough. You can make it even more hearty and wholesome by swapping out some of the all-purpose flour for a whole grain flour – start with 1 cup. Or take baby steps and start with 1/2 cup.
- Saffron Honey Oatmeal Bread: You can take this loaf in an entirely different direction! Skip the cheese and jalapeño. Dilute a pinch of saffron in 2 teaspoons of almond extract and then stir this mixture into the 1 tablespoon of honey left after proofing. Combine some almond slices with the rolled oats added to the top of the loaf prior to baking.
- Vegan / Dairy-free Oatmeal Bread: Skip the cheese, use water instead of buttermilk or milk, and skip the egg wash topping prior to baking.
My Favorite Ways to Enjoy this Bread
- Keeping it simple: toasted with a smear of salted butter and sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
- Had a slice with this carrot soup and simple salad for a perfect lunch.
- Go the panini route, this bread loves to be toasted, use it in a panini TLT.
- The cheddar jalapeño combo make this the perfect match for a breakfast sandwich – put an egg on it!
If you’re looking for more baking inspiration, here’s where all the baking recipes live. I love this beautiful braided onion bread, and if you’re a bit intimidated by yeast breads, you can never go wrong with a good one-bowl baking recipe.